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Prison's closing to affect Hempfield Township Municipal Authority revenue

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By Richard Gazarik
Monday, March 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The Hempfield Township Municipal Authority stands to lose about $400,000 in revenue when the state prison along Route 119 closes this summer, but customers are not likely to receive a rate increase, the authority chairman said.

“We're losing a big chunk,” Chairman Robert Kendra said. “My personal opinion is we won't raise rates.”

With the addition of 1,200 new customers in the Lincoln Heights area this spring when a major sewer line project is completed and 350 more in Rolling Hills, the authority should be able to keep current rates, Kendra said.

A number of homes in Lincoln Heights had malfunctioning septic systems that are being replaced by sewer lines.

Residential customers pay a flat rate of $55.56 per quarter plus a usage fee of $3 for every 1,000 gallons of water used.

The authority has been hit before with a revenue loss that forced a rate increase. Kendra said rates went up after the Sony plant closed and the authority lost $1 million in revenue.

Authority Director Rege Ranella said the state prison at Greensburg is a major customer, but the prison's closing is offset by other development in the township and the potential for development in the north, along Route 819 and Forbes Trail Road.

Before new development can take place, though, Hempfield and the Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority will have to implement a plan to curb flooding and handle additional sewage flow that further development would create in that area, Ranella said.

Before the state announced that the prison will close by June 30, the two authorities considered exchanging sewer lines. Greensburg would turn over lines it controls in northern Hempfield to the township, while Hempfield would turn over lines it maintains near the state prison as well as lines at the nearby Westmoreland County Prison and the juvenile detention center.

Ranella said the state prison closure will kill that swap.

The two authorities have submitted a joint plan to the state Department of Environmental Protection to handle development in north Hempfield and flooding that occurs during heavy rains.

Sewage in north Hempfield flows into the Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority plant on Route 119, authority engineer Dan Schmidt said. A proposal to bypass Greensburg and direct flow to New Stanton along the Five Star Trail was considered, but the Greensburg authority stood to lose revenue, he said.

Instead, the two authorities submitted a joint plan to the DEP to build a 1-million-gallon equalization tank near Lynch Field in Greensburg, Kendra said. During periods of heavy rain, the tanks would collect the excess water and slowly release it over time to avoid overloading the sewage treatment plant.

“Their lines are old, and a lot of surface water — storm water — gets into the sewer lines,” he said.

Schmidt said the tank also would help with development in northern Hempfield.

Dr. Stuart Glasser's plans to build a 2,000-unit development north of Greensburg has been stalled for several years because of the housing market slump and concerns over sewage in Hempfield. In addition to homes and apartments, the “Traditional Neighborhood Development” would have stores, offices and restaurants.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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